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Jan 13, 2013 12:39 PM

Dinner in Bologna and Modena

I will have 1 night in both Bologna and Modena. I am looking for wonderful local restaurants to experience the best of local cuisine.
Any suggestions??

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  1. Al Sangiovese in Bologna. highly rated...outstanding food, fairly priced

    26 Replies
    1. re: alejandrop88

      Disagree, nice people, but the food not so much, bad pastas, pretty much meh for both ragu and gramignia and secondi was meh as well, tough meat and silly capon dish was so bad. Wanted to like it so much because hosts were so welcoming, but would not return. Actually got scolded for not eating the bad food, too. An extra plus. Sad it was just not good.

      1. re: SYBARITE11

        @sybarite11, what are your recommendations for Bologna?

        1. re: jen kalb

          I second jen kalb's inquiry, SYBARITE11. The last 3 posts I read of yours trash 3 different restaurants in Bologna (1 of which I love). What are your favorites?

          1. re: jen kalb

            I travel to Bologna every year for some years now, and have been there twice this past year alone for almost a month total. In the past I was excited and enthralled with the rich Bolognese food, but the food has not been the best of late in Bologna, a point with which I agree with Allende regarding most food in Bologna today.

            I have recently had stellar meals at Da Amerigo in the hills outside Bologna in Savigno and at Hosteria Giusti in Modena. The food, welcome, ambiance and execution of all were far better than the rushed touristy experience one receives at, for example, Serghei, where mere seconds after the primo is ordered, you hear a "ding" and your food comes out, and secondi is served rapid fire as well. So much for preparing to order. It is all made ahead and on a steam table or microwaved and your mediocre dinner is over in 40 minutes. Trattoria Anna Maria makes the best pasta in Bologna, perhaps, but the other items on the menu are merely passable and the ambiance and hospitality are poor. Melloncello used to be an old favorite, but they have definitely gone downhill to the cafeteria in the kitchen route and push to turn tables now. Camminetto d'Oro was always a quality choice in the center, but was closed for two weeks over the Holidays and I did not visit so I cannot comment regarding a relatively recent dine there. I have been to Leonida, Da Cesari, Grassilli, Matusel, Montanara, Corte Galuzzi, Franco Rossi, Benso, Ost Romagnola, Drogheria, Dei Poeti, Ai Butteri, Buca Manzoni, and many more, but after one meal have not felt the desire to return. This led me to seek the recommendations here on this board.

            A new find that was welcome was the Tuscan restaurant Posto, in the far west but still within the walls of the center. They have a nice ambiance with a full packed house of a monied lively crowd and great hosts to greet you. The tuscan pastas are inventive and delicious and the meats are the best quality. The only downside was that a Saturday meal stalled to almost 3 hours (feast or famine in Bologna) and we left well after 1am with the restaurant still full of bubbly, happy diners.

            We also found one rather new very small restaurant in the center that is Modenese and was fantastic, but it is already overprescribed with locals and very hard to get into, so I do not want to sell it out on these boards. We were disappointed that the new Spanish restaurant so touted by our Bolognese friends, Bodeguita Juan Alberto, was never open when we tried to visit. It is supposed to be very good. We also heard very good things about Trattoria al 15, but it also was not open when we attempted to visit.

            We are open to and try to find new dining experiences every time we visit Bologna, and by accepting advice on this board, hoped to find some new favorites. But when we did not have the same experience that a poster did, I feel the need to offer another opinion for the sake of the other diners.

            1. re: SYBARITE11

              @ Sybarite 11

              Glad to hear that two of my favorite places, Da Amerigo and the Hosteria Giusti were stellar and thanks for sharing my view on the restaurants in Bologna. Don't know how long you've been going there, but believe it or not, 30-35 years ago, there were a number of very good places. As you and i have both said... not so today. However, it is difficult to convince folks here of that and that they should get out to places like Amerigo and Giusti and other places a bit farther north e.g. Da Ivan, La Buca, Mariella.

              1. re: allende

                I don't think it's difficult to convince folks here that the restaurants you recommend would be worth trying. Most people have said they would like to very much, but several people have tried to explain to you that it's a practical matter of many people not having a car. Just like Sybarite, they have a reason for going to Bologna and spending nights there. Apparently, even after reading all your posts and warnings, she wasn't able to avoid eating in the city entirely. Maybe he or she will explain to you why.

                1. re: barberinibee


                  I think these recent threads are just one small indication that people reading Chowhound are open to your advice to go outside of Bologna for better food. One person changed around their entire vacation itinerary on your advice to eat at Da Ivo, etc, and two others who were complete strangers arranged to meet up and share a cab to eat at Da Amerigo based on your posts. Maybe not a 100% success rate, and maybe you are perfectionist, but....



                  It's not clear to me which old Chowhound threads Sybarite relied upon before revisiting Bologna. Apparently she missed our discussion about Caminetto d'Oro (or maybe she planned to eat there anyway based on rating it highly from past visits). I posted here on Chowhound that I'd no longer recommend Trattoria Anna Maria to anybody, even though I agree with Sybarite it is perhaps the best pasta to be had in the centro, but too many bad recent reports of other dishes (including one from me) . I've actually watched my food being cooked to order at Serghei, so can't go with Sybarite's ear on that one, but I do know I've repeatedly said on Chowhound -- and you posted your agreement -- that for anybody staying more than a few nights in Bologna who cares about eating delicious food, shopping and access to a kitchen is the way to go.

                  I've never eaten at any of Sybarite's other choices except Leonida, which I meh'd right here on the boards. And except for Al Sangiovese, I don't recognize the other eateries as recommendations from any recent Chowhound discussions of Bologna.

                  I've mentioned before that the search feature is inadequate. I think it is wrong to encourage people to just study old threads and minimize asking questions for just that reason. Maybe if Sybarite had discussed what she was looking for, she would have gotten more information that would have led to a different plan.

                  Allende, I'll ask you outright: Are there restaurants in Piemonte and Emilia-Romagna that have given you your best meals that you are not posting about here on Chowhound? (I'm also mildly curious if you are now tempted to go to Posto in Bologna, given Sybarite's opinion of Caminetto d'Oro as "always a quality choice", but I'll stick to one question of you.) If there are circumstances that are leading you to decide not to name on Chowhound the best restaurants you eat at , I'd be very appreciative of an honest answer on that score.

                  1. re: barberinibee

                    Not sure why I'm bothering to answer you, but this time I will.
                    The answer to your question is no.

                    1. re: allende

                      I'm not sure why you bothered either once the point had become moot, but thanks.

                    2. re: barberinibee


                      My wife and I are considering a seven-night stay in Emilia Romagna, principally because we want to sample the food that makes the region famous. We were thinking that we might spend two nights in the vicinity of Parma and spend the remainder in Bologna. Our rational for spending five nights in one place is that we’d rather not waste time hauling luggage, and we’d prefer to familiarize ourselves well with one city, rather than briefly visit several. And our rational for choosing Bologna is that it’s the largest city in the area and should therefore have more worthy dining options than other cities. However, your recommendation for anyone staying in Bologna more than a few nights to seek accommodations with a kitchen makes us wonder about our choices. It’s unlikely we’ll have a kitchen, and we won’t have a car. Should we look at different cities, or should we be prepared to hop around in order to find excellent meals?

                      1. re: Il Duomo

                        "However, your recommendation for anyone staying in Bologna more than a few nights to seek accommodations with a kitchen makes us wonder about our choices. It’s unlikely we’ll have a kitchen, and we won’t have a car. Should we look at different cities, or should we be prepared to hop around in order to find excellent meals?"

                        I just want to jump in here and say please do not worry over such a thing. We have stayed a week in Bologna with no kitchen or car and eaten wonderful meals all week long. You are on vacation. Please enjoy your time in Parma and Bologna. If you do not eat at the BEST of the BEST restaurants every meal you will not have any less of a great time. Stay away from the pure tourist traps and relax. These are my words of advice as a tourist who has stayed "more than a few nights" 3 times now in Bologna and eaten well each time. Please do yourselves a favor and do not fret about what should be a relaxing and easygoing experience.

                        1. re: ttoommyy


                          Thanks for your two cents. I think we'll cease to second guess ourselves and proceed with our plan to spend five nights in Bologna. Aside from the places already mentioned in this discussion, do you have any favorite trattorie in Bologna?

                          1. re: Il Duomo

                            You're welcome Il Duomo. Yes we do have a favorite local trattoria in Bologna that is unpretentious with delicious food. Now if I could only remember the name! Give me a day or two to look through our travel food diary and I will come up with it. And contrary to what someone else said either in this thread or another, we love da Gianni.

                            And in Parma, I would highly recommend Trattoria del Tribunale.


                            1. re: ttoommyy

                              Thanks for the recommendations, ttoommyy. Were you able to find the name of the trattoria that you mentioned in your last post? If you're able to reply with a name, thanks in advance. If not, thanks all the same for your help.

                              1. re: Il Duomo

                                So sorry it's taken me so long to get back to you, Il Duomo. It is Trattoria Trebbi. Very simple food, but wonderful. Their antipasti buffet is not to be missed. A huge selection and all delicious.


                                1. re: Il Duomo

                                  Where did you end up eating? We are going for five days next month. No car. No kitchen. Thanks for sharing your experiences both bad and good.

                              2. re: Il Duomo

                                Il Duomo,

                                Sorry I didn't see your post until now. Can't really advise you about whether you should hop around or get a car. Depends on what your individual travel priorities are.

                                However, no matter where you stay in Italy for 5 days running, I tend to think it is best to have a kitchen. Two restaurant meals a day in any part of Italy can be too much food and too much waiting between courses and for the bill if you are not in the mood for that. For Bologna in particular, it can be quite nice to shop in the local markets for fresh pastas that are simple to make, and to have lighter meals of salads and meats or cheeses, plus fresh fruits some evenings.

                                If renting a place is not possible, quite a variety of people who post on Chowhound have enjoyed their meals at Giampi e Ciccio in Bologna. You will also find in Bologna a number of places that serve lighter lunches at a fixed price, and I think it is very enjoyable to shop in the old markets and take the food to Osteria del Sole, where for the price of a glass of wine you can sit at a table and eat your fresh purchases.

                                1. re: barberinibee

                                  I understand the context of your suggestion perfectly well now, barberinibee. My wife and I have strolled though many Italian markets lamenting our lack of a kitchen. Previously, I thought that your suggestion to find an accommodation with a kitchen was an indictment of Bologna's dining scene. Thanks for your post.

                              3. re: ttoommyy

                                while I am not going to recommend specifically the places we went while in Bologna (1 year ago for 3 nights). I wanted to speak to this idea that there are no great restaurants in the city.

                                As a matter of perspective, if you have never been to Italy, I don't think you will be disappointed. Even what may be considered a mediocre pasta to many regular eaters there, probably blows away what you have had in North America (I am making an assumption here about where the OP is from). This was our experience at many restaurants that a refined Italian palate, such as Allende would have 'poo-pooed'. To me, it was like going to Paris, every bakery in the city made an amazing croissant, however ask a Parisien and they would be aghast.

                                One more tip, when you get recs for restaurants, try to get a rec for what to order there too. We found that most main courses in Bologna were not great. It was all about the pastas and cured meats!! ENJOY!

                      2. re: SYBARITE11

                        thanks for responding! It seems like as more and more places get on the tourist trail and become part of every travelers "list" the more they are at risk of losing their discerning local patronage and the quality that brought them to attention in the first place. Particularly, budget type places may make a decision to just churn it out if tourists, students and other folks who keep coming regardless. the bad economy may also be having an impact.

                        Whatever, the reason, Im glad to see some good reports and new names. I forgive holding back the name of the restaurant with modenese cuisine. I doubt if there is a person posting here who has not held some thing back in his or her day and hopefully the identity of this jewel will emerge in time..

                        This local forum/review site may be one place to suss out new places.

                        1. re: jen kalb

                          I have lived in parma for almost 5 yeas and know emilia romagna very well. I see lots of posts listing places where the chef has left or quality has gone way down hill. Beware of people giving recommendations who have not been here within the last six months

                          1. re: robeetamell

                            So we are coming in May to Bologna. We have reservations at Osteria Francescana because I can't come from California and be that close to a so-called world's top 10 and not go. Would appreciate local knowledge of Bologna and environs (e.g accessible by train in an hour or less). Grazie.

                            1. re: lebdog

                              how long are you planning to be in Bologna? there are lots of places within an hour by train, even Venice I think (smile)

                              If you run Bologna through the search feature above , you will see a number of discussions which may give you some ideas about the local cuisine and where to find good examples.

                              1. re: jen kalb

                                A friend recommended Pappagallo from a visit many years ago. Does anyone know it? Thanks.

                                1. re: lebdog

                                  Il Pappagallo is the type of institution that many foodies tend to avoid, because it falls into the category of Known Quantity. It's not the place to come to if you want cutting-edge cuisine or trendsetting creativity. Also, it's not the place to come to if you want friendly, informal service and setting, the feeling of being "in someone's home". The atmosphere is definitely classic and formal.

                                  But, if what you're looking for is absolutely un-reinterpreted presentations of the classic Emilian dishes, done in the classic way, with high quality throughout, it's a great choice. It's where to go to get a reference point on the traditional cuisine of the region.

                                  It's not cheap, relative to what you get. Don't expect amazing quantity-for-price ratios or sensational must-try dishes that justify any price. However I would say that for the quality on offer, the prices are reasonable, so long as you have *realistic* expectations on what a fine restaurant in an affluent area of Italy will cost.

                                  If you've been to London, an almost perfect analogy is Simpson's on the Strand. Nobody is going to give it any awards these days, because it doesn't break any new ground in terms of the restaurant experience, but for a traditional British roast it's very hard to do better. Same thing for Il Pappagallo.

                        2. re: SYBARITE11

                          Sybarite -- thanks for your very helpful post. However, I am in desperate need of a great dinner in Modena's center (but not Francescana). Would you be so kind as to at least give a hint as to the one you found? Or better yet, email me privately at I would be most grateful and promise not to post on it.

                          PS: I am also a huge fan of Da Amerigo and Giusti. I just wish the latter was open for dinner.

                  2. The original comment has been removed
                    1. Santangelo in Bologna is quite good and traditional.